Alaska or Bust

The AmeriCorps program stations volunteers across the United States, including Alaska. On a whim, Broken Bow graduate Jonathon Crouch applied for a position and was appointed an AmeriCorps Education Volunteer. In the last five months, Jonathan has spent his time teaching at a high school in Sitka, Alaska Lucky for Jonathan, AmeriCorps made the living arrangements for the duration of his stay. He shares a house with four other AmeriCorps workers and even got to bring his dog. The cost of living is very high in Sitka, partially due to the fact it’s an island and also because of its aesthetic beauty. “It’s the best of both worlds! I can look out one window and see the mountains and when I look out the other, there’s the ocean,” exclaimed Jonathan. After graduating from Broken Bow High School in 2002, Jonathan went on to attend UNK and earn a political science degree. After attaining a managerial job at St. Francis Medical Center, Jonathan decided he wanted to do something more with his life. “I needed to step out of my boundaries and be able to positively impact others around me,” Jonathan explained. To achieve this he began by looking into the Peace Corps but wasn’t convinced he wanted to make such a big commitment. Next, he stumbled onto the organization’s sister agency, AmeriCorps. The main difference between the two factions is that the Peace Corps stations its volunteers internationally, while AmeriCorps remains stateside. In addition, when joining the Peace Corps, one must make a two-year commitment, instead of just one-year as with AmeriCorps. Deciding this was something that interested him, Jonathan conferred with family and friends for their input. They were more than supportive, encouraging him to begin the application process. Some of the locations he applied for ranged from Texas to Maine and as a joke he applied for a position in Alaska. It’s funny how things work out because within two weeks, Jonathan had already heard back from Sitka, the Alaska location. By the time the Texas and Maine offices called, he was already in the second round of interviews for the Alaska position. Then Jonathan had to ask himself, “When else will I get to do this?,” referring of course to living in Alaska. It took less than a month from his acceptance, until Jonathan arrived in Sitka this last August. He began teaching right away at Mount Edgecumbe High School. “It had always been in the back of my mind to go into teaching,” he reflected. Jonathan was appointed the debate coach for the school. He told that he’d done some speaking in high school and had enjoyed it, so he was excited about the position. Besides working with the students, Jonathan also gets the chance to travel to the various meets and such. Upon returning to Alaska after the holiday break, Jonathan will be picking up an EMT class to instruct as well. One of the draws to teaching in Sitka is the variety of classes offered. Some that are not usually taught in other high schools across the nation are classes ranging from flying lessons to oceanography. “It’s a very unique program and that’s what I love about it,” praised Jonathan. The majority of students attending Mount Edgecumbe are native Alaskans and travel from various tribes and small villages. The school is actually a boarding school, one that’s very selective with its enrollment. For this reason, there is a waiting list of students wanting to gain entry. Jonathan partially accredits their good behavior to this because the students know that if they don’t want to be there, someone else does. He also gave credit to their manners and respect due to their upbringing, as most of the students come from tribes and are taught by their elders. Even though the school year will conclude in May, Jonathan is stationed in Sitka for a year and will remain there during the summer. When asked what he would be doing once school got out, he said he’d be working on the admissions process for the next school year, as well as working at a youth camp with elementary students. “I’m definitely doing another year of AmeriCorps. I just don’t know where I want to do it yet,” Jonathan shared. When asked if he was satisfied with his current location, he replied, “The students are beyond what I’ve ever expected, they’re very kind and curious. I’m very happy in the atmosphere but not 100 percent decided.” So far, his experience has been one to remember. From having mandatory curfew due to bear activity to flying in a rinky-dink plane in order to compete at a speech meet, Jonathan has made some lasting memories. Whether he will stay stationed in Alaska or try somewhere new, waits to be seen but one thing is for certain, his memory making isn’t over.